tension

What Are You Holding Too Much Of?

Over the weekend my mom, sister and I got massages.  It has become our annual January tradition: a girls’ spa day. While sitting in the jacuzzi, I remembered I had an appointment with my chiropractor scheduled for the following day.

“What a great week for my body!” I remarked.

Come Monday afternoon, I thought, I would be the most relaxed person in the world.

After my massage, I felt relaxed. The masseuse had done a great job. I half expected to get to the chiropractor and have her say, “you are the picture of health. Your joints should win awards.”

But instead, when she put her hands on my back she said, “You’re tense. Like, very tense.”

“Oh,” I responded.

I was truly surprised, speechless even.

“Yeah,” she replied, “you’re holding way more tension than you think.”

I opened my mouth and then closed it, letting this sentence sink in.

She, like my masseuse, dug into my neck and shoulders, finding knots that made me gasp in pain as she worked them out. She got deep cracks out of my back and my neck, and I stood up feeling sore.

You’re holding way more tension than you think.

On my drive home, I sat on the freeway, in torrential rain—especially for Southern California—replaying these words over and over.

I didn’t feel like I was particularly stressed. I’d had such a good day with my mom and sister. Not to mention a week off of work between the holidays. If I was holding tension, where was it coming from? And why was I holding it? And where?

The more I thought about it, the more the word “tension” became other things, like anxiety, stress, fear, impatience, anger, doubt, disappointment, pride, bitterness, frustration, pain.

You are holding more fear than you think.

You are holding more pride than you think.

It became less of an explanation as to why my neck and shoulders were tight, and more of a call to action—a reminder to check in with myself.

We all have busy schedules once in a while (sometimes more often than not) and it can result in us skipping over big emotions or feelings taking place underneath the surface. What feel like passing thoughts, worries, or memories, might be huge sources of stress, anxiety and tension.

My mind has been full lately, not just with what is going on in the present, but what is happening in the future—immediate and far—and what has happened in the past. My dreams have been vivid and strange, and my body has been tired.

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga—a lot of deep breathing and slow, meaningful movements—which can be relaxing, but can also stir up what is underneath the surface. The same goes for a new year. It can be a reminder of hard things, a pressure to start new things, and a marker of things lost or perhaps never (or not yet) gained.

We each might be holding more than we think.

We might be hiding that tension (bitterness, fear, anger, doubt, disappointment, pride, impatience) away, not even knowing that it’s there.

What’s strange about the body, is that it can often figure out how to manage that tension—how to hold it—without sounding an alarm. It can shuffle things around, using muscles in ways they shouldn’t be used, filing emotions in places they shouldn’t be filed, in order to make everything feel “normal”. Our body knows how to throw things into a closet and, with just the right force, close that door, so that no one (including us) can tell that it’s too full of everything that doesn’t belong there.

So today, I want you to think about what you might be holding.

And what you might be holding too much of.

Your body is ready to release that tension.

You are ready to release that tension.

What can you stand to let go?

What’s the first thing you can pull out of that closet?